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July 28, 2009 7:46 AM | Alaskan Photo Tours

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Alaska Votes to Subpoena 13 in Palin Troopergate

BY MICHAEL WEBSTER: investigative reporter September 13, 2008 at 12:01 AM PDT

Republican presidential John McCain with his vice president, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Steve Branchflower, a retired prosecutor who legislators hired to investigate Palin's dismissal Former Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, said someone in the governor's office may also have prompted one of the 13 people on the subpoena list to deny workers compensation benefits to state trooper Mike Wooten.

The police were involved in a divorce from Sarah Palin's sister, and Monegan has said in media interviews he believes he lost his job because he would not bow to pressure from the Palin family and at least one of the assistants of the governor to fire the trooper.

In 2005, before Palin ran for office, the Palin family accused Mike Wooten of drinking beer veteran in the patrol car, illegally shooting a moose and firing a Taser on his stepson 11 years old. Palin and her husband, Todd, also claimed Wooten threatened to kill the father of Sarah Palin. Wooten was subsequently suspended for the allegations for five days in 2006 but still has a job. Among the complaints the Palins have lodged against Wooten is that he filed a claim workers' compensation despite not actually injured.

Branchflower testified Friday at a joint hearing of the House and Senate of judicial committees in Anchorage Alaska.

Committee members vigorously debated whether to take the unusual step of subpoenas, with one lawmaker, Republican Sen. Gene Therriault North Pole, predicting that it could lead to a smackdown "court battle between the executive and legislative branches of state government.

Therriault and Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, argued for delaying the issuance of subpoenas, if not the investigation itself, until after the November 4 elections.

Others wanted to continue with the Branchflower investigation.

"I say let's get the facts on the table, the sooner the better, "said Sen. Charlie Huggins, a Wasilla Republican who came to the hearing dressed in camouflage, and said he took the time to a go moose hunting.

Huggins joined the president of the Senate Finance Committee Sen. Hollis French and Bill Wielechowski, both Democrats Anchorage, in supporting Branchflower request for quotations. Therriault and McGuire voted against.

Lawmakers who voted to subpoena witnesses including the husband of Gov. Sarah Palin, Todd, and the employee identified in the service port setting as part of the Troopergate investigation.

Lawmakers began the probe in late July and August before Palin was announced as running mate. Lawmakers voted to spend up to $ 100,000 in research of Branchflower.

In open testimony Friday, Branchflower explained that he needed to subpoena witnesses, most of whom are state employees who have refused to submit to questioning or who initially agreed, but no-shows for appointments later.

A "very important" witness in the list of subpoena, Branchflower said, is Murlene Wilkes, owner of an Anchorage company called Port Service Setting. The company has a state contract to process and pay claims for workers comp.

Branchflower said in August he heard that "someone or someone office of Governor of the State," he advised Wilkes to deny Wooten's complaint. So Branchflower said he called Wilkes to check.

Branchflower said Wilkes told him he had never talked with anyone in the governor's office about the Wooten file, nor had seen photos of Wooten riding a snowmachine while on workers compensation.

But more Later, he said, a company employee who worked at Wilkes and managing actully claim Wooten said she was pressured – Branchflower refused to reveal his name. Everything he said was that he called his investigative tip line to say Wilkes told her "something to the effect that either the governor or the governor's office wanted this claim denied."

Branchflower said the employee statements were recorded during the interview. Branchflower said she told him she felt pressured.

"No, you know, care if it's the president who wants the claim denied. I will not deny unless you have medical evidence to do that, "Branchflower said, quoting the statement the employee.

Now, Branchflower said he wants to take an affidavit from Wilkes, who said he may not "truthful" in his initial talk him. Wilkes said, he canceled an appointment on Thursday for a meeting with the advice of an attorney.

"She obviously is a key player because she handles all claims for compensation of workers for the state of Alaska, "Branchflower said." She may have a financial motive, "he added, because of its contract with the State.

Wilkes, as the witness is unavailable and apparently ducking the press.

Tom Van Flein, a lawyer from Anchorage retained for the governor by the Law Department (AG's Office), which authorizes up to $ 95,000 to pay for representation as governor. But it is also representing the governor and her husband Todd in private. When Van Flein was asked by the press "do not think there is any conflict of interest or violation of any ethics, "said he had not, and that in the past has represented the Palin on other issues, and refused to say what are those issues were. Normally the State Attorney General Palin have represented, however the State of Alaska AG Talis Colberg is deeply involved in the matter and so he has challenged according to his office.

Van Flein said he could not say if someone with the governor's office contacted the adjustment port Wooten on demand. But Van Flein said state officials have investigated "potential workers" version of a draft fraud, "based on information from Todd Palin. The facts Palin denies any abuse of power and Palin's attorney Van Flein has repeatedly said that the investigation belonged to the staff system and not the legislature.

State officials on Friday when asked about the worker comp case which could not shed any more light or other details including what the state's current contract is with the port.

News reports Brad Thompson, state director of risk management and one of those receive a subpoena, furnished a copy of a one-year contract, signed in 2003, paying Harbor $ 1,200,000 to meet the claims of workers comp.

Thompson, in an e-mail, said the state has signed "several extensions" since the initial contract, but he did not respond to questions regarding the duration of the current contract or dollar amount.

Branchflower said he wants to quote Todd Palin, as the critical "core" continuity Wooten employment as a soldier. He told lawmakers Todd Palin had a meeting with Monegan in the governor's office in January 2007, shortly after his wife was sworn show him the results of a private investigation into the alleged police misconduct, including photos of Wooten riding a snowmachine.

Two important witness Branchflower wanted to interview, but lawmakers decided not to subpoena, are the governor herself and her former chief of staff, Mike Tibbles, now working as the campaign U.S. manager Sen. Ted Stevens, Alaska Republican who is accused by the feds and is preparing for a trail to promising.

Branchflower said which is the goal of completing its investigation and that on 10 October.

In an exciting new development of the second Laguna Journal has learned that Alaska and former U.S. attorney Fiscal Wevsley Shea actually wrote to Palin advised against its current course of action in this matter and warned of "serious" the circumstances if she continued.

The governor before she hired an attorney revealed an audio recording that shows an aide pressuring the Secretariat Public Safety to fire a state trooper fighting a custody battle with her sister.

Palin, who has previously said her administration did not exert pressure to get rid of trooper Mike Wooten, also disclosed that members of his staff had made about two dozen contacts with public safety officials about the soldier.

Shea in his letter to Palin dated July 24, 2008 said: "I have great respect for you, Todd and his family. You are wonderful Alaska. Unfortunately, in my opinion, has had a very naive professional attorney in the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Law. His "political advisors" have given poor counsel; The situation now is serious. "

His letter continues saying that he recommends action "now" to restore credibility and Alaska's bright future with you.

He encouraged Governor to immediately "Apologize for not personally terminating Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, and for her" Apologize for their statements regarding Commissioner Monegan in the press release no. 08-125. And "Apologize, with Todd, for overreaching or perceived overreaching in Trooper Mike Wooten. Y "terminate any state councilor" who spoke to Trooper Wooten with Commissioner Monegan. And "The name of the former chief Remove Kenai Police Commissioner Chuck Kopp as Public Safety. And "No, in writing (and in the Press Release. 08-125)." Define "the credibility of State employees.

Shea closed his letter by saying that "Trooper Wooten was / is a threat to public safety to his grave family. It was / is a very personal, the emotional stuff that was well mishandled or covered by certain individuals. Todd was / is very concerned. You are a wonderful woman with a good husband. Certain key advisors were / are weak and self-absorbed. I am extremely concerned about the "wolves" if my recommended action is not taken immediately .

Sources:

For related articles go to: www.lagunajournal.com

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About the Author

America’s leading authority on Venture Capital/Equity Funding. A trustee on some of the nations largest trade Union funds. A noted Author, Lecturer, Educator, Emergency Manager, Counter-Terrorist, War on Drugs and War on Terrorist Specialist, Business Consultant, Newspaper Publisher. Radio News caster. Labor Law generalist, Teamster Union Business Agent, General Organizer, Union Rank and File Member Grievances Representative, NLRB Union Representative, Union Contract Negotiator, Workers Compensation Appeals Board Hearing Representative. Investigative Reporter for print, electronic and on-line News Agencies.

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